Today we’ll be reading one of the more fascinating chapters in the New Testament, God’s revelation to us about the resurrection. Here we’ll find out more about the resurrection than any other passage in the Bible. For this reason, let’s dive in…
The Greek world rejected the idea of the resurrection. They visualized a “Night of the Living Dead” sort of thing. So, although Paul had taught the resurrection to this very Greek church, they still had difficulty with the doctrine and some appear to have been abandoning it. And although we live in what is considered a Christian culture (a claim that begs askance), many in our own culture, sometimes in our own churches, still are relatively ignorant about. This is sad, since one of the three great pillars of Christianity (faith, hope, and love) refers to the resurrection — hope!
The importance of the doctrine of the resurrection — 1 Cor. 15:1-19
Paul starts with how critical the doctrine is to Christianity. It had been among the very first things that Paul and the other apostles always taught non-Christians — an absolutely indispensable part of the Gospel. If the doctrine of resurrection was a myth or fiction, then so is all of Christianity! Why? Because so much of Christianity rests directly upon Christ’s own resurrection. Without Jesus’ resurrection, it becomes clear that He was not the Messiah, not our Savior, and that His death on the cross meant nothing. Paul poignantly puts it this way, (1 Corinthians 15:17-19) “and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” But if Christ was raised from the dead, we also will be, too! Just not yet, as Paul will talk about next…
The order of the resurrection — 1 Cor. 15:20-28
This may be of interest to those who are interested in the doctrine of premillennialism, there’s an order, a chronology, that Paul talks about here that may throw you a curve ball. According to most premillennial schemes, the Kingdom comes after the resurrection. But see what you think; I’ll put the order in parentheses…
1 Corinthians 15:23-28 — “But each in his own order: (1) Christ the first fruits, after that those who are (3) Christ’s at His coming, (4) then comes the end, (5) when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. (2) For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. (3) The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, (6) then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.”
What will it be like? — 1 Cor 15:35-49
“OK,” the Corinthian Christians might be expected to say, “so, describe what these resurrection bodies will be like, then.” Here Paul has a little bit of a problem, since the description of spiritual things is usually pretty challenging — we don’t really have words for things spiritual things we never experienced before. So, Paul resorts to parables or metaphors to explain.
- Like a seed compared to its plant — Seeds are small, shriveled, dead looking, and destined to be buried (like our mortal bodies); but the plant that they ultimately produce is bigger, different in appearance, different in capacity, generally more glorious, and of course alive. So also the moral body and the resurrection body may have some connection, but the resurrection body will be vastly more glorious, stronger, more beautiful, more capable, and of course immortal.
- Different from the flesh you know — Anyone who has ever seen a butcher meat case knows that it usually contains a variety of meats: beef, pork, chicken, or fish. Each is distinct in its look, each is distinct in flavor, and each is distinct in its texture. So also with the resurrection body — we’re familiar with what our present human flesh is like and what it is capable of, the resurrection body’s “flesh” will be different.
- Different in glory — There is the beauty and glory of earthly bodies — human, nature, forests, mountains, oceans, and deserts. But there is also an awe inspiring beauty and glory of the sun, moon, and stars — each with their own distinct glory. So also with the differences between the mortal body and the resurrection body. The mortal body may be glorious in some senses (the Greeks were deeply appreciative of the well developed human body — as their statuary reveals); but the resurrection body will be glorious beyond comparison!
- We now are given “Adam’s flesh”, then we will be given “Jesus’ flesh” — Lastly and probably most revealingly, Paul tells us that as we now bear the image and capabilities of Adam in our present bodies, so also we will bear the image and capabilities of Christ’s resurrection body at our own resurrection. This becomes something that the Bible student can further follow up on — study the Gospel accounts of the resurrection and Jesus’ resurrection appearances. Things that you note in those stories are things that we may logically assume will be possible for us, too: appear and disappear in a locked room, disguised at times and recognizable at other times, able to be touched, able to eat, but also able to ascend into Heaven, and immortal!
The resurrection of the living and the dead — 1 Cor. 15:50-57
This idea of resurrection is not just about the dead, it is about the living too, who will be “changed” to an immortal, resurrection body in the twinkling of an eye, when the Lord comes back. The mortal body will never do to see God or do all the things God appears to have in mind for the faithful.
It’s worth it — 1 Cor. 15:58
Do you ever get tired? The Christian life is certainly challenging, full of trials and temptations — some of them severe. But lest we ever get tired, weary, worn out, or on the verge of giving up here’s some good news to keep us going: 1 Corinthians 15:58 “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”
Giving as prospered — 1 Cor. 16:1,2
Paul was encouraging the church in Corinth to contribute to a special fund to support the church in Judea (experiencing a famine at the time). He would be returning at another time collect their contribution, but in the meantime he suggested a way he hoped to ensure a substantial contribution: let people contribute weekly as they are prospered. Sometimes well-meant pledges fall short, if the giving is delayed — they sometimes get inadvertently spent. This becomes an approved method for the local church to collect funds for its programs, projects, and needs — and even its support of minister or missionaries.
Do what you need to do — 1 Cor. 16:13,14
Paul had commanded them a number of things that we’re going to be easy:
- put aside prideful differences and unite
- withdraw fellowship from what may have been a prominent member because of sin
- discipline the church to partake of the Lord’s supper properly
- discipline the women of the church to be subject to male leadership
- discipline the church to stop the confusing and disorderly worship that had become the norm
- break down denominational barriers between brethren
- love one another in a practical way
So, he needed to remind them to: 1 Corinthians 16:13 “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” Christianity isn’t for sissies; it is for those men and women who have the courage of their convictions!a
See you tomorrow, Lord willing